Legion field small yet 'loaded'

TUPELO – Booneville Braves coach Shane Sanderson is worried about not having played – or even seen – Hub City this summer.
That could be the same concern for the other three teams in this year’s American Legion State Tournament.
“We haven’t played that Hub City team,” Sanderson said of the Hattiesburg team. “That’s what worries me.
“We kind of have seen them play or ran into them in the past. Usually when they don’t play anybody up here, they’re either pretty strong or pretty weak, and I’m leaning towards strong.”
But the three Northeast Mississippi teams in this year’s state tournament are likely to be as concerned with playing one another as they would be playing Hub City.
Booneville (17-11) has the best head-to-head record out of the three area teams, going a combined 5-4 versus the Tupelo 49ers and the Pontotoc Red Sox. The Braves are 3-2 against the 49ers and 2-2 versus the Red Sox this season.
Pontotoc (19-10), the 2007 state champion, split its meetings against Booneville and Tupelo – 2-2 versus the Braves and 1-1 against the 49ers.
“It will be a loaded tournament,” said 49ers skipper Kirk Presley, whose team won last year’s state championship by beating Booneville in the finals. “It should be a good one talent-wise.”
Pontotoc coach Nickey Browning said six teams normally play in the state tournament and a couple of teams have dropped out of this year’s tournament. Still, both Browning and Presley believe the 2009 tournament should be a pretty good one on the basis of the regular-season games the three Northeast Mississippi teams played against one another.
“I think whoever gets hot will win the tournament,” said Browning, whose team finished third in the state last year. “That’s kind of the way this thing has gone the last couple of years.
“In 2007 we got hot and we won it. You got a chance to win if you get hot with the bats.”

John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal